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Old walls and a “new” castle

Town Walls

The North East’s most famous wall is of course that built by and named after the Roman Emperor Hadrian, which starts (or finishes!) here in Newcastle, at Wallsend.

Hadrian's Wall - not in Newcastle!

But Newcastle has its own wall too, which once circled the city – the medieval town wall. This was built during the 13th and 14th centuries, to protect the town in particular during times of conflict between the Scots and the English. When these conflicts became less, the wall was allowed to fall into disrepair.

The town wall was approximately 3 kilometres (2 miles) long. It had seventeen towers, as well as several smaller turrets and postern gates, and was intersected by six main gates: Close Gate, West Gate, New Gate, Pilgrim Gate, Pandon Gate and Sand Gate. The names of some of these remain in the city’s streets and buildings – Westgate Road, Pilgrim Street, Pandon Quays.

6815110-Corner_Tower_Newcastle_upon_Tyne.jpg 106451864927924-Corner_Tower.._upon_Tyne.jpg
Corner Tower

Look for the plaques

As well as these place names, parts of the wall itself remain, and you could spend an enjoyable time searching it out during your walks around the city. The tower in my photos above is the Corner Tower, at the junction of City Road and Melbourne Street just along from the Sandgate area of the Quayside.

There are more substantial remains near Stowell Street in the heart of Newcastle’s small Chinatown, and along nearby Bath Lane, as well as some smaller fragments in St Andrew’s Church.

West walls of the city, near Chinatown

West walls of the city, Bath Lane

The Castle

There are two remaining parts of the “new” castle that gave the city its name, the Black Gate and the Keep.

The Castle was founded by Robert Curthose, the eldest son of William the Conqueror in 1080 and was like many Norman castles of the motte and bailey type. The original would have been made of wood, and it was rebuilt in stone during the reign of Henry II, between 1168 and 1178, with the addition of a keep. The keep would have acted as both the principal fortification of the castle and the dwelling of the commander of the garrison. It housed, on the ground floor, a great vaulted storeroom and a fine late Norman chapel, and on the first and second floors two suites of accommodation. Each had a hall, or public room, a solar or private room and latrines. Access between floors was by the great spiral stairs in the eastern angles, and from outside by an external stair to the second floor. On the same floor was a well nearly 100 feet deep.

The Keep

During the reign of Henry III between 1247 and 1250 the Black Gate was added. When the town wall was completed in the mid 14th century the castle became isolated within the new defences, and lost its importance. As early as 1589 it was already being described as old and ruinous. People began to build houses and shops in the ‘Castle Garth’, the area within its old walls.

By the 1800s the Castle Garth was a bustling community full of slum housing, shops, taverns and a meeting hall. Most of this however was demolished when the railways were built in the 1840s, cutting right through the castle, as they still do today.

The Keep is surrounded by the railway tracks!

On one side is the Black Gate, roughly oval in shape, and on the other the Castle Keep. The latter was significantly restored and altered in the early 19th century, with battlements and corner turrets added to create a more Romantic notion of what a castle should look like.

The Black Gate

Both Keep and Black Gate were extensively renovated between 2012 and 2015, and both are now open to the public, though we haven’t been inside for years! But we pass this way often and I always stop to admire the castle’s unusual setting between the railway arches – one of Newcastle’s most distinctive views.

The Black Gate, with Amen Corner and St Nicholas Cathedral beyond

Posted by ToonSarah 04:10 Archived in England Tagged buildings castles architecture history city

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Great photo with the railway tracks!


Thanks Adam - taken from the station platform while waiting for a London-bound train :)

by ToonSarah

The Keep surrounded by railway tracks is an amazing sight..I agree with Adam that is a great photo.

Interesting to see that there is a Melbourne Street in Newcastle and it made me wonder of its connection with Melbourne Australia. Then, and to prove that I learned something in school history classes, I remembered Lord Melbourne the British Prime Minister after whom Melbourne, Australia is named. So I assume Melbourne Street in Newcastle is named after the PM as well and has no connection at all with Melbourne, Australia.

by Wabat

I've never thought about why there should be a Melbourne Street in Newcastle Albert but I reckon your theory is right. I looked up Lord Melbourne, and although he has no personal connection to the city, he served as Home Secretary when Earl Grey was PM and followed the latter into office.

by ToonSarah

And of course we have Earl Grey tea, which I dont like. Earl Grey on the other hand was most admirable.

by Wabat

Whereas I quite like Earl Grey tea - certainly much better than the traditional black tea which I never drink

by ToonSarah

love the history lesson, thanks for sharing!

by Ils1976

Glad you enjoyed it Ils :)

by ToonSarah

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